During the season of Advent 2013, the seminary community made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and to Rome. At first I felt lost and unsure of what this pilgrimage had in store for me. I was unsure if I was equipped physically, mentally and spiritually. Deep down I knew
I wanted to have a more profound relationship with Christ. I wanted to feel the journey of Jesus Christ and His mission. Even more so, I wanted to know if I was worthy of following Him, of serving Him. I wanted to ask for forgiveness for my sins and strength for my weaknesses.
Entering the Holy Land, my mind was filled with many questions, and at once I felt shock, amazement and sadness. Seeing the lands, the people (in particular the beggars), the buildings (the walls of separation between Israel and Palestine), I found myself wondering where Jesus was in all of this. It suddenly hit me that this was the place where Jesus’ human life began and ended, and where the mission of our heavenly Father was born.
Each day, as we journeyed through Israel, I would hear from our pilgrimage guide, George, “Ok guys, yalla” (“let’s go” in Arabic), followed by, “this is where Jesus was born”, “this is where He performed this miracle”, “this is where Jesus preached the word”, “this is where He was tempted”, “this is where He asked Peter three times, Do you love me?”, “this is the place Jesus was crucified”.
It was quite overwhelming! Standing on the holy grounds of Bethlehem, Galilee, Nazareth, Cana, I found myself praying deeply, wanting to feel the presence of Jesus, and telling Him that I truly love Him. Other times my heart and mind would be filled with questions: How journey involved visiting many churches of historical and ecclesial significance. It was a great opportunity to learn more about the Catholic Church in her mission to embrace and reflect the message of Christ. In particular, the lives of the saints allowed me to make can I serve You? What is it that You want me to do? Please, bless me with the strength and courage to follow your way and to say yes to our Father as you did. As we departed from the Holy Land, my heart was filled with joy and gratitude. To be able to stand in the very place where Jesus physically taught the way, truth and life has been a great lesson for my ongoing journey to God. I think of the words, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer 29:11). Arriving in Rome, I felt myself saying, wow and amazing! Our the connection between the early Church and the modern Church. I could see that even after many years, the mission of Christ is still very much alive throughout the world. Truly this pilgrimage has deepened my relationship with Christ and God’s people.
“No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor human heart conceived, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him, (1 Cor 2:9). I firmly believe that we, the children of God, who are loved immeasurably by God, are all on a pilgrimage. Together, we must therefore pray for the strength and courage to say “yes” to the mission of God and allow Christ to be our guide.